Ultimate Packing List for South America

In a destination that offers a wide variety of countries, climates, traditions and activities, we thought you might like some help in deciding what items should make your ultimate packing list for South America and why.


Encompassing so many different climates and opportunities for adventure, it is important to be well prepared. Keeping this in mind, our top tip when it comes to clothing is layers! We highly recommend packing T-shirts, lightweight shirts and a rain-resistant jacket, as well as comfortable walking pants. For those nights out on the town where you don’t want to look like just another tourist; throw in a nice scarf, a smarter shirt or skirt to dress things up.

If you’re planning on trekking, our South American Travel Specialist, Gisel, also recommends getting a pair of seriously comfortable hiking boots. Make sure you have worn them in before you leave, and don’t forget a couple of pairs of nice thick socks to wear with them!


Although it is best to leave as many valuables as you can at home, you will inevitably end up having to carry items such as passports and money. The best way to carry these is in a money belt or travel pouch. Furthermore, make sure anything of value such as watches and jewellery are not on display, as these can make you an easier target for thieves.


Often overlooked, bags can make or break your trip. Don’t have this trip be the time a wheel on your suitcase breaks, or the time the zipper jams. Certainly don’t let it be the time you run out of room and have to buy another suitcase, either!

These are our top tips for what bags to bring when travelling to South America:

  • A good quality suitcase or backpack: ensure you have a bag that will be able to keep up with your adventures, especially if your trip is a long one! If you plan on hiking or are navigating unknown terrains, a hiking pack may be best for you.
  • Daypack: for those days when you are out sightseeing and don’t need to bring everything but the kitchen sink, a daypack is an absolute must.
  • Packing Cubes: If you’ve never used these, prepare to be a convert! Packing cubes are fantastic for separating different sections of your suitcase. Keep your toiletries in one cube for easy access and all those pesky chargers in another– no more tangles!
  • Plastic bags: Great for dirty clothes, muddy shoes, rubbish bags–anything really!

 Keeping Healthy

South America has some magnificent peaks, offering breathtaking views and unfortunately at times, altitude sickness. As a precaution, we recommend bringing along altitude sickness pills. If you don’t get sick, great, and if you do, you’ll be very glad you brought them! Some other things we recommend bringing include:

  • Water purification tablets: Depending on where you stay, how far from the city you are or which country you are visiting, these tablets may be very handy. Buy a pack to keep on hand and you will be grateful for that moment you do need them…
  • Bug spray: A definite must! Bring your own, as it can be difficult to find sprays containing DEET, which is more effective at warding off mosquitos.
  • Malaria pills: Generally only needed when in areas closer to the Amazon basin, but consult your doctor for medical advice.


There are a few things you absolutely cannot forego on your trip to this stunning continent! Before you leave ensure that:

  • Your passport is in date
  • You have a copy of your plane tickets
  • Arrange any visas you need to
  • You check with your doctor you have all the appropriate immunisations
  • You have appropriate travel insurance
  • You have booking confirmation of your accommodation

Top Tips

  • Before you do your final zip up, lay everything out on the floor and question every piece you are packing– remember you will have to carry and wheel every single item for the entirety of your trip!
  • You don’t need a new outfit for every day! Although it may be tempting to pack 15 different shirts for your 15-day trip, this is room you could be saving for souvenirs!
  • Don’t forget your chargers! Although a holiday is the perfect time to get away from our phones, unfortunately these wonder-devices can be a big help in getting from A to B.
References:  Thank you Wherever WriterBackpacker.orgBig World Small PocketsAnnase LundbergLonely PlanetUSA Today and Co-worker

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